SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — Researchers at UC Santa Cruz announced Friday afternoon that scientists have released the complete genome of the deadly coronavirus on the school’s Genome Browser.
The university’s Baskin School of Engineering posted on Twitter about the news at 12:40 p.m., saying that the release will allow fellow scientists to see the structure of the virus and formulate new ways to attack it.
*BREAKING* Baskin researchers have released the complete genome of the #coronavirus on the @ucsc @GenomeBrowser . This will allow scientists to see the virus' structure and find ways to attack it. https://t.co/9Bju7nYiDW@ksbw @UofCAHealth @UofCalifornia #Wuhan #2019nCOV pic.twitter.com/49jKhEt09i
— Baskin Engineering (@UCSC_BSOE) February 7, 2020
The Genome Browser is an interactive web-based “microscope” developed at UCSC that allows researchers to view genetic material at any scale.
“When we display coronavirus data in the UCSC Genome Browser, it lets researchers look at the virus’ structure and more importantly work with it so they can research how they want to attack it,” said UCSC Genome Browser Engineer Hiram Clawson in a press release.
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While not the first to post the complete genome of the coronavirus, the UCSC Genome browser is arguably the best known genome browser in the world and the most user friendly.
Clawson told KPIX News that the UCSC Genome browser is known as the Kleenex of the genome browser industry.
According to the Baskin School of Engineering, samples of the virus have been processed in labs all over the world with the raw data about its genetic code getting sent to the worldwide repository of genomic information at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Bioinformatics or NCBI in Bethesda, Maryland.
“When people find novel viruses, they send them to the NCBI, and the NCBI assigns them a name and number so everyone can refer to an exact specimen,” explained Clawson. “Once they’ve processed the genomic information, it’s made available to the world from the database.”
The UC Santa Cruz Genome Browser was then able to processes the data into a visual display of the virus.
“What makes the Genome Browser so valuable is that it is so visual,” Clawson said. “It makes it very clear where everything is, so when people make interesting measurements about the genome in the virus, they can see what they’re looking at.”
This is not the first virus that UCSC engineers have placed on the Genome Browser. A few years back, they published the ebola virus from the outbreak on the browser. It took two weeks with all hands on deck.
Clawson said they do it because the UCSC Genome Browser is so widely known among scientists. He told KPIX that thousands of people use their browser every day.
The Chinese government announced Friday that the death toll in mainland China has risen to at least 636. The outbreak has now infected more than 31,400 people worldwide.
The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.